I graduated exactly a week ago. People say “congratulations” while I think the more fitting words are “good luck.” True, we survived 4 years of Berkeley where a system is established to be one of the most challenging in the academic world. True, surviving Berkeley required discipline, intellect, focus, and strategy. Yet, at the same time, the university is still a system where where both success and failure is defined, each with its proper celebrations and interventions.
And of course, breaking away from this system was what gave me the most thrill. Withdraw a semester to go to Spain? Sure! Running around the library in a cape during dead week? yes please! Grades? Psh. All of this was lighthearted fun because there was something to return to in case consequences get scary. Breaking away was also playing with my own version of success, where investing hours in networking events instead of homework was my way exploring, but I always have the option of being an academic if I ever fail. Maybe that’s why my parents always called me rebellious?
And now I no longer have one. There is no more status-quo to define what my success is. Income? Impact? Community? When I experiment, the risks are higher because there is no more safety net. The rebel is also simply the explorer with the luxury of a GPS and a “return home” option, so you know, in case I got lost. But now, I actually have to explore without a safety net.
Sure, I can define my legitimacy again by plugging myself into another career track or institution. But part of me laughs–you know that’s not going to happen, jennytang. Getting a stable 9-5 job for the next 5 years of your life? heehee. But other days I get scared and say “yes please”, and on the even more interesting days I want to smile, and present a raw and unpackaged “fuck you” to all those saying I’m holding my own expectation of life too high.
I recently watched the movie Big Fish: “She said that the biggest fish in the river gets that way by never being caught.” Maybe its the same with settling. I might not want to become the biggest fish out there, but I sure as hell still want to grow.